‘American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson’ Is Really Hotting Up – Episode Three Recap

Set in 1994, ‘American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson’ is a retelling of the controversial trial that saw former NFL star OJ Simpson acquitted of the double murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown-Smith and Ron Goldman. Week-by-week, we’ll be recapping the FX show as it’s shown on BBC 2 – getting under the skin of one of the most intriguing television shows of the year.

This post contains spoiler for ‘Episode Three: ‘The Dream Team’.

Last week’s reconstruction of OJ’s infamous 1994 chase around the LA freeways in his Bronco was electrifying viewing. But ‘The Dream Team’ swapped pace for tension, turning a game of snap into a game of chess.



Orchestrated by OJ’s lead attorney Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), the defence team for Simpson convenes to map out their game plan for what will become one of the most famous trials in American history. At the start of this episode, OJ in custody and learning of the reaction to his arrest. In fact, ‘Juice’ – OJ’s nickname, an abbreviation of ‘Orange Juice’, a pun on his name – has very little to do in this episode as it’s Shapiro who starts making the moves that will eventually get OJ acquitted a year later.

He first recruits F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) to his team, who in turn recommends another famous American lawyer in Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler). The core of the defence team then assemble at Shapiro’s office in LA, and the ‘Attorney Avengers’ begin drafting possible exonerating strategies. One includes placing doubts on the DNA samples collected at the crime scene, and the other, well, is a bit more complex.

A Time magazine cover featuring an artificially darkened mugshot plays a huge part in convincing Shapiro to chase a defence that doubles-down the issue of race. This is in addition to the discovery that the detective who found ‘the glove’ in the past admitted to being a bigot. Being the puppet-master he is, Shapiro also engineers the publication of a contentious article in the New Yorker, which attacks two ‘white’ institutions (the media and law enforcement) for their handling of the case. The article has far reaching implications as Shapiro wises up to the game he is about to dive head-first into – ‘trial by media’.

So far, the show has been noticeably clunky in tying the context of ’90s LA into this narrative. The allusions to the growing distrust of the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) by the black community and the very real support OJ had in that community are important to the story, but the writers, at times, have failed to make the script seem like believable conversations. ‘The Dream Team’ represented a marked improvement on the awkward expositional lines of episodes prior, instead showcasing subtler and sharper dialogue between characters. Most notably between Christopher Darden, a black lawyer poised to join the prosecution team and lead prosecutor, Marcia Clark.

OJ appears only sparingly throughout the episode, but following two back-to-back episodes of Cuba Gooding Jr screeching a lot, this is welcome. At the crux of the episode, Shapiro insists famed celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran (seen below) joins the defence team to help with their strategy. OJ responds ‘I’m not black, I’m OJ’, before accepting that this is the best method to clear his name from very incriminating evidence.


Over at the LAPD, lead prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) begins to come to terms with the controversial case she is taking on. Despite earlier calling the evidence and the result a “slam dunk”, witnesses begin to cash in and sell their stories to the press, subsequently damaging their credibility in court – much to Clarke’s dismay.

The acting from Sarah Paulson is, once again, superb, as her character becomes further invested in the trial – and Paulson responds with a fierce, stand-out performance. In fact, the performances across the board from John Travolta, Connie V. Bance (as defence lawyer Johnnie Cochran), and Sterling K. Brown as (as prosecution Christopher Darden), are also extremely convincing in a well-acted and intricate episode.

‘The Dream Team’ is 40-minutes of forward-thinking adjustments and subtle side-steps by the defence who are poised to showcase the strategy that would ultimately save OJ. Next week’s episode will almost signify the halfway point of the ten-episode series, so don’t expect for this pace to last. It’s going to get real messy, real quick.

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